Good for all...?
It feels like an over-used cliché - claiming that what is necessary for some is good for all (or many). Those who already support the concept of design for all do not need the argument, while those who do not, will not be persuaded by punchy slogans. But still, I have to try one more time because this example is particularly clear. At least it is to me.
There is a service called real time captioning, or written interpretation. This means that an actual person transcribes what is said to written text simultaneously. Essentially, it’s used at conferences, physical and digital meetings. It's incredibly impressive how much these pros perceive, and sometimes a little depressing to subsequently read your own parlance. It's not always I’m as stringent that I imagine...
Real time captioning is of course a typical "accessibility - thingy" that you usually don’t see anywhere outside our niched world. It’s a great service for people with different needs; concentration difficulties, memory problems, hearing loss, and more. Also, people using reading support technology can go back to the file and get the conversation read out aloud afterwards.
A true help in everyday life
I’m now getting to my point: this is a great tool for me as well - even though I don’t fit into any of the categories above. In my job, I often have long video-, Skype and phone conferences with persons from all over the world. Like myself, they often have another language than English as their mother tongue, and most likely a different English accent than my own. Furthermore we often interrupt each other. It’s difficult to discern who said what if you’re not familiar with everyone's voices, it's hard to hear what is said at times because the technology is not perfect and sometimes the pace is simply too fast to perceive everything when dealing with a foreign language. For me it’s a huge profit to get the call in written interpretation at the same time!
Written interpretation allows me to go back to the things I might have missed or misunderstood without disturbing everyone else. It allows me to get a cup of coffee without the risk of missing something important and it almost eliminates my troubles with understanding technical terms in a foreign language. Moreover, it’s often the pronunciation that makes it difficult, not the word itself. And when I get it in writing, I can google terms without losing face. For me, this is an invaluable service in all international contexts. And I'm not the only one to think so.
A good investment provides more
One of the most common comments we get at Funka Accessibility Days is the great value of written interpretation. This despite the fact that we provide simultaneous translation to and from English, Swedish and Norwegian. Last year, we even received a suggestion: to investigate the level of understanding after conferences providing written interpretation in relation to conferences without this service. It would be interesting to test - maybe we’ll get the chance to do so sometime.
But until there is scientific evidence, I urge you to try for yourself! Before you have experienced the difference, you have no idea what design for all really is about. I promise.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to learn more about Funka’s concept on accessible conferences, and connect with our very competent conference partners.
Susanna Laurin, Funka